Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sometimes I Hate Having My Worst Opinions Confirmed


This one, for example.

Per The Guardian:

The state of Oklahoma botched one execution and was forced to call off another on Tuesday when a disputed cocktail of drugs failed to kill a condemned prisoner who was left writhing on the gurney.

After the failure of a 20-minute attempt to execute him, Clayton Lockett was left to die of a heart attack in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma state penitentiary in McAlester. A lawyer said Lockett had effectively been "tortured to death."

No, I did not predict -- nor could I have reasonably predicted -- this particular outcome with respect to this particular victim at this particular time.

But such outcomes are inherent in allowing the state to not just kill people, but to do so a) under the protection of secrecy laws relating to personnel, purchases, procurement, etc., and b) using methods that approximate Junkie Russian Roulette in terms of concoction.

Oklahoma's governor has called for an "independent review" where "independent" means "conducted by people who work for me."

I think a different approach is in order -- the next execution protocol the governor signs off on should first undergo human trials. Let her and her cabinet draw straws for the honor of participation in said trials. If they think they've got it right before the whole executive branch is pushing up daisies, the remaining members, including the governor or her successor, can pass the ball to the legislature for expanded trials, maybe five or ten politicians at a time. Just to be sure, you know.

People who want the state to kill people should be willing to put some skin in the game.

I'm not always a big fan of Rachel Maddow, but she definitely covered the issue in detail tonight. If the embed works, you can watch it yourself in 3, 2, 1 ...



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I'm Pregnant!


So I'm going to open this blog post with some completely irrelevant text for the sole purpose of getting it past any "first few characters analysis" algorithms, because that's what this post is really about.

As you're probably aware, no, I'm not (that thing in the title).

Just seeing if I can fool You Know Who into thinking I am. Presumably that will be reflected in the ads I start seeing online.

If you're still confused, this.

[Update: It's been a couple of hours and I'm still not seeing any sign of a bite despite this blog post, emails to a couple of friends, visits to Babies R Us's registry, Google searches for prenatal care in Gainesville, etc. ... if the spirit moves, please feel to congratulate me on the coming family addition or whatever on the social networks and such. The whole idea here is to find out if this kind of thing is easy to convincingly spoofed and if so how long and how much activity it takes - TLK]

There's No "Could Become" About It


Israel is an apartheid state, complete with different sets of laws for Jews and Arabs in Israel proper and fake "homelands" in Gaza and the West Bank, theoretically governed by their own inhabitants but in actuality governed militarily from Tel Aviv. That's just a fact of reality.

Do I understand the reasons why Israel finds itself painted into an apartheid corner? Sure -- 50 years seeking a Jewish homeland, six million dead in the Holocaust, a bloody war for independence and "national survival," subsequent bloody wars (some more, some less for that same "national survival") tend to create a fortress "us versus them, eternally" mentality.

But it is what it is, and to blame US Secretary of State John Kerry (who has many actually blame-worthy qualities) for saying the same thing that Israel's founding father, David Ben-Gurion, said in 1967, that former prime minister Ehud Barak said in 2010, and that pretty much everyone recognizes as either accomplished or impending fact, is ... well, stupid (so is pretending that Israel is an "ally" of the US rather than just a very demanding welfare client with a powerful political lobby; so US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is two for two on today's Stupidity Meter -- along with Kerry himself, who is now backing down in public from what he thought he was saying in relative private).

The Israeli and US governments both claim to want a "two-state solution" -- Israel co-existing with an Arab Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. But they're not serious about it. Any time the Palestinian Arabs start getting their act together for statehood, Israel throws a temper tantrum and the US government pronounces itself "disappointed" at the Arabs' gall and temerity. The only "second state" Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to accept is one which allows Israel to run its foreign and military policy and unilaterally set (and re-set at will) its borders. Which, of course, is not a "state" at all, or even a believable masquerade costume of one.

Israel claims to not want a "one-state" solution, but that is what it has -- an apartheid one-state solution in which Jews are "more equal" than Arabs in Israel proper and Gaza and the West Bank live under military occupation with, among other outrages, Israeli "settlers" stealing their land at will.

As an anarchist, I prefer a "no-state" solution, but I'm not optimistic about that happening any time soon. And no, I don't have any grand plans to offer for how Israel might get itself out of this bad situation. But restoring the 1967 borders and butting out of what happens on the other side of those borders, as every US president since at least as far back as Nixon has urged, might be a good place to start.

Monday, April 28, 2014

0.86% of US Population Receives 17.3% of US Income!


About 2,748,978 Americans are employees of the federal government.

The population of the US is somewhere around 317,940,000.

The federal government takes 17.3% of Gross Domestic Product in taxes.

So the average federal employee controls a little more than 20 times as much of each year's produced wealth as the average American. And it's not just production income:  As highlighted in the recent Bundy "ranch standoff, that 0.86% of the population claims to "own" 28% of land in the United States.

Oh, they say they control it "for all of us" and "on everyone's behalf," but that just doesn't wash even if it's true (and we all know it isn't). After all, many -- maybe even most -- "private sector" rich people contribute to charity and so forth, but the "wealth inequality" complainers hold that it's the fact that they have/control the wealth, not what they do with it, that's important.

What got me thinking about this? Well, a lot of people are talking about Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the 21st Century. I haven't read it yet, but I've been following the talk, and one blurb stood out to me:

"A landmark book ... which brings a ton of data to bear in reaching the commonsensical conclusion that inequality has to do with more than just blind market forces at work." Paul Krugman, New York Times

That quote caught my attention because I find such a ... libertarian ... statement rather odd coming out of Krugman's mouth. I believe it to be true that it is indeed not "blind market forces" which create drastic wealth inequalities. I suspect that in a free market, wealth would distribute itself quite a bit more evenly than it does in a state-managed economy. I'm not saying that there would be no rich people or no poor people, just that most people would be wealthier than they are now and that "the super-rich" would control a smaller percentage of wealth than they do at present.

But is that what Krugman meant? I tried Googling the specific quote and wasn't able to find the piece it came from. What I did find was his upcoming piece on Piketty in The New York Review of Books, "Why We're in a New Gilded Age." In which he holds that:

So progressive taxation -- in particular taxation of wealth and inheritance -- can be a powerful force limiting inequality.

And he's just. Flat. Wrong. When wealth is "progressively taxed," it doesn't get redistributed equally among those poorer than the people who had it before. It gets redistributed to a tiny bureaucratic minority who are just as interested in acquiring, using and keeping that wealth as anyone else, even if they formally disclaim personal interest and pretend to be acting as agents of "the public." As history demonstrates, this tiny bureaucratic minority tends to align itself with those "progressively taxed" wealthy rather than with the poor, however deserving or undeserving you might think the poor are (if for no other reason than that even under very "progressive" taxation, the wealthy retain enough wealth to pay bribes, hire lobbyists, elect candidates, etc.).

The state is, as Karl Marx put it, "the executive committee of the ruling class." And it pays itself a hell of a salary.

Google+: From "Product" to "Platform?"


According to TechCrunch's Alexia Tsotsis and Matthew Panzarino [hat tip to Business Insider's Lisa Eadicicco], the departure of Vic Gundotra from Google basically means the death of Google+:

What we're hearing from multiple sources is that Google+ will no longer be considered a product, but a platform -- essentially ending its competition with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

I'm trying, and failing, to understand the distinction. Here's one bread crumb -- much of the Google+ team will be farmed out to other applications (e.g. Android) with a focus on "mobile" stuff:

The teams will apparently be building "widgets," which take advantage of Google+ as a platform, rather than a focus on G+ as its own integral product.

But isn't that kind of a distinction without a difference? If the Google+ infrastructure ("circles" for sharing/commenting/discussing and "hangouts" for direct interaction) is already built, it seems to me that aggressively moving those functions onto Other People's Web Sites is really all that's left to do, other than perhaps incremental improvements and leaping into action if some Big New Social Thing surfaces and needs addressing.

I confess that two areas in which I have not been an early adopter are "mobile" and "social networking."

I've tried to catch up with the phone thing a time or two but I fundamentally just don't like phones. I don't like answering them, I don't like talking on them and I loathe carrying one around.

I was late to Facebook, late to Twitter and late to Google+. I took a long time to warm up to Facebook, never have been able to make myself like Twitter and am just now starting to see the real potential of Google+ (I think I hit sort of a threshold number of "connections" awhile back such that now I see comments on, replies to and further shares of content I share with my "circles").

So, I guess I'm not ideally positioned to predict the future ... but if I had to hazard a guess, that guess would be that only Google can kill Google+ and that if they don't kill it, it will surpass both Facebook and Twitter as a "content sharing and discussion platform" within a few years.
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Friday, April 25, 2014

Nope


Quoth Bionic Mosquito (at LewRockwell.com, which is where I read it; it's a reprint there from the mosquito's own blog, giving me the opportunity to have two links):

One thing all of the advocates of thick (or, in this case, unrecognizable) libertarianism have in common is to ignore property rights.

I am a "thin" libertarian -- I define libertarianism as the non-aggression principle and nothing else (and, like Bionic Mosquito, find Zwolinski's idea of rejecting the NAP horrifying when offered under the label "libertarian").

But the statement that "all" thick libertariansm ignore property rights is just plain wrong.

In fact I've never come across a single "thick libertarian" who ignores property rights.

I suppose there might be someone, somewhere who calls hirself a "thick libertarian" and ignores property rights, but I've never run into such a creature.

According to Google, there are 171 references to property rights at Rad Geek People's Daily, blog of "thick libertarian" Charles Johnson. And I know both from reading that blog regularly and from clicking some of the random Google results that Johnson not only does not ignore property rights, but seriously addresses them.

At Austro-Athenian Empire, blog of "thick libertarian" Roderick Long, Google finds 341 references to property rights -- the first one being an explanation of why libertarians accept such strong property rights claims.

Johnson and Long are not just "thick libertarians" -- they are probably the two most prominent advocates of "thick libertarianism." And they don't "ignore property rights."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Election 2016 Handicapping: Miscellany


Jeb Bush says he's "thinking about it." And I doubt he'd publicly say that if he wasn't leaning toward "yes."

How does that affect the race?

Well, Bush leaning toward "yes" and Bridgegate probably combine to doom Chris Christie's prospects. At the very least it closes some big checkbooks until Bush makes up his mind ... and if it is "yes," those checks will be written to him rather than to Christie. There's only room for one "moderate governor" in the field, and the Bush family hasn't put two of its own in the White House already by being weak fundraisers.

The RealClearPolitics polling average has Bush in a pack of 4 at the top, all clustered within two points of each other: Mike Huckabee followed by Rand Paul followed by Bush followed by Christie.

I don't think Huckabee will throw in. I could be wrong, but for the moment I'm going to assume he'd rather just keep on making good money as a talking head than spend another year plus riding around flyover country in a bus that smells like a locker room, kissing hands and shaking babies again.

Could it come down to Bush versus Paul for the GOP nomination? Yes, it could (and I think Bush would win such a two-way contest).

Of course there's a large rear end of the pack from which some other contender might pull away. And someone new and unexpected might show up on the field. I mean, we're two years out here.

But even two years out, there's another polling average that has to have Republican strategists and possible Republican candidates worried: Even with Democrats in the midterm doldrums, even with ObamaCare dragging its namesake administration down, even with congressional Republicans bringing up Benghazi as often as most people sneeze, Hillary Clinton boasts a lead of 9% or so on any of them.

Support Capital Punishment? Own It.


I'm fine with the death penalty if it's levied by the victim of a violent crime, or someone acting in that victim's defense, at the scene and time of the crime and consistent with self-defense.

I don't support allowing state officials to kill when it's not "in the heat of the moment" -- i.e. when the perpetrator of a crime has already been subdued and caged. The math isn't hard on that: I don't support letting the state exist or do anything, so killing is definitely right out.

But if you do support state-levied capital punishment, insist that your agents stand up and be counted instead of hiding from their own actions like embarrassed cowards.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has rejected two death row convicts' demands to know who is providing the drugs with which a doctor (in blatant violation of the Hippocratic oath and any sane canon of medical ethics, by the way) will kill them.

One idiot pol, state representative Mike Christian, wants to impeach the court's members for even taking up the case. His fellow idiot pol, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, bellyaches that it's a case of "intimidation used by defense counsel and anti-death penalty groups" (because employees of the most powerful street gang around strapping someone to a gurney and lethally poisoning him isn't "intimidating," right?).

But I think this is being looked at from the wrong angle:

It isn't about the inmates, it's about the public.

Even if you think it's OK for politicians to steal your money and use that money to kill people, surely they should at least have to do so openly instead of secretly -- if for no other reason than that secrecy in state killings looks like a very, very slippery slope to stand at the top of. It's stump-stupid to let sociopaths like Mike Christian and Scott Pruitt dispose of human lives in the first place. It's even more stupid to let them hide their methods.

If a compounding pharmacy doesn't want to lose the business of customers who oppose pharmacists assisting in killing people, that pharmacy shouldn't assist in killing people. Moaning that their company's identity should be kept secret so they don't have to face the consequences of their business practices? World's smallest violin tuning up, people.

If a doctor wants to take a paycheck from the state for killing people, that doctor's picture and name should be pasted up on the nightly news so taxpayers know who they're paying (and so patients who prefer real doctors to pusillanimous money-grubbing killers for their healing needs are forewarned).

Ashamed to be a paid killer for the state? QUIT. Otherwise, own it.

Remember When He was the Talk of the Town?


How quickly fame fades ...


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

J'ACCUSE! Bloomberg's Indoor Smoking Ban Claims the Life of Prince Charles's Brother-in-Law


Of course you won't see it reported that way straight, but there's just no getting around it:

The Duchess of Cornwall was "utterly devastated" last night by the death of her brother after he smashed his head on a pavement in New York. ... Mr Shand had been at an after-show party for a charity fund-raising event that was also attended by Princess Eugenie, who is working in New York. ... A source said: "He had just stepped outside and lit a cigarette when he slipped and smashed his head. The ambulance was there quickly but there was little they could do."

If not for the indoor smoking ban, he would have been at his table with an ashtray instead of outside stumbling to his death.

Should Have Been "With Prejudice"


A federal judge has dismissed Quentin Tarantino's frivolous lawsuit versus Gawker.

Unfortunately, he can refile the frivolous suit if he makes some changes to the complaint. Not changes that would make the suit less frivolous, but changes.

So, Smarter Than Your Average Congressman ...


At least when it comes to things like balancing budgets:

It looks like a standardized test question: Is the sum of two numbers on the left or the single number on the right larger? Rhesus macaques that have been trained to associate numerical values with symbols can get the answer right, even if they haven’t passed a math class.

My guess is that they're probably also about on an equal footing with American politicians when it comes to baring teeth, screeching incoherently and flinging poo diplomacy and foreign policy.

Ooh. OOH!


I've never used a pellet-powered smoker before, but I'm dying to try one. Trying to do real barbecue on a standard charcoal/wood "barrel" grill is nerve-wracking. It's nearly impossible to get and keep the right temperature for slow and steady cooking/smoking.

Here's my dream unit:


Unfortunately, the price tag is way out of my league, so I guess I'll keep experimenting with the Kingsford "barrel" that I got on clearance last year (it was the display model left after all the boxed units had been sold).


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Striking Thing About the Snowden/Putin Dialogue


Edward Snowden's spokespeople are already backpedaling away from the whole thing, but my takeaway from it is this:

Vladimir Putin is a lot more afraid of Russian public opinion than almost any US government official is of American public opinion.

Call Snowden's question a softball if you want.

Assume that Putin is lying like a rug when he says his regime doesn't spy on the Russian people, and I have to agree that he probably is.

But at least he felt like he needed to lie, maybe because it's only been about 20 years since he saw what happens when his country's public finally gets royally pissed off.

When Barack Obama (or George W. Bush, or Dick Cheney, et. al) get asked about stuff like this, they lie for about two minutes, with silly "I can't believe I have to go through these motions" grins on their faces, before noticing that yeah, they got caught red-handed again and switching to "hey, we can do anything we damn well please because John Yoo says so."

"Rule of law" may be a silly fiction, but it's a silly fiction that Putin still feels a need to give semi-convincing lip service to. Our politicians, not so much.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What's in a Designation?


So a barkeep is taking his landlord to court over the following lease clause (problematic part in bold):

The leased Premises shall be used by Tenant as a restaurant and bar. It shall not be used for adult entertainment and shall not be operated as a gay or lesbian bar and / or restaurant.

On the one hand, I have to take the landlord's side in the specific dispute. If the guy wanted to run a gay bar, he should have leased another property, or driven a harder bargain with the landlord, refusing to sign unless the clause was removed.

On the other hand, I just don't see how the clause is enforceable.

What is a "gay or lesbian bar?"

I've been in a number of gay bars, but not once have I ever seen one identified as such on its signage, in its advertising, on its menus ("welcome to Bob's Gay Bar, here are your gay food and beverage selections"), etc.

Yes, I knew these bars were "gay bars."

In at least one case I knew because the (gay) pizzeria owner I worked for warned me that I'd probably get some wolf whistles and a friendly pass or two (I was younger and better-looking back then, and yes I did) before sending me to deliver pizza there. In other cases, I was going out for drinks with gay friends and they specifically asked me beforehand if I would be comfortable in a "gay bar."

And I probably would have figured it out pretty quickly in any case (e.g. one club had a drag queen talent show every Saturday night).

So far as I can tell, a gay or lesbian bar is a gay or lesbian bar because gay men or lesbian women hang out there. I suppose the bar in question might advertise in local LGBTQ publications and so forth, but I bet a lot of not-specifically-gay venues do so as well.

So other than "gee, you've got a bunch of gay and / or lesbian looking customers in here," what precisely would the landlord hang his complaint on vis a vis that clause?

Is it a "gay bar" only if 100% of the clientele are gay? Does it become a "gay bar" as soon as the first gay customer walks in (and what if he doesn't admit he's gay)? If neither of those, what's the threshold ... 90%? 10%? Somewhere in between?

The whole thing seems kind of stupid to me. But it's an excuse to embed a video I like, so ...


Common (Sense) Core?


Over at a site called The Truth, which I've otherwise not explored, there's a piece about how Common Core is "dumbing down" American kids (I noticed the piece because Mary Lou Seymour picked it for inclusion in today's edition of Rational Review News Digest).

The name of the piece is "You Won't Believe The Method That Common Core Is Using To Teach Our Kids Subtraction."

The piece opens up with a picture purporting to explain the "old" way and the "new way."

But when I look at the "new way," it doesn't look very new at all.

In point of fact, it is at least 31 years "old."

How do I know? Because it was 31 years ago, when I was 16, that my first employer showed it to me and insisted that I use it, rather than the then new-fangled electronic cash register's "automatic" function, to count out change to customers.

Let's say that a customer's purchase came to $1.37, and the customer handed me two dollar bills.

I would count (into my hand) three cents to get from $1.37 to $1.40, then another 10 cents to $1.50, then another 50 cents to $2, and hand the customer that amount -- 63 cents.

Worked every time.

And in fact that's usually how I handle subtraction problems in my head to this very day. If you ask me what 5,000 minus 3,147 is, I'm not going to pull out a piece of paper, stack the numbers on top of each other and so forth. I'm going to count up, adding (in my head) 3, 50, 800 and 1,000 to get 1,853. That's what I just did. And whaddayaknow, when I check it on my handy-dandy calculator, I get the same result.

Now, once again, I'm not trying to come off as supportive of "Common Core." I don't approve of government education at all, let alone a centralized set of standards for kids living across broad geographies and with great likely differences in future careers and such. But it looks to me like this critique of Common Core is kind of stupid.
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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Nice Trick


Turning something of your own party's creation into a "wedge issue" that benefits you rather than your opponents, that is.

Apparently Republicans think they can do that with "Common Core," a set of controversial education standards created by the Republican-dominated (29 states to 21 for the Democrats) National Governors Association.

The linked New York Times article implies that the Republicans' Common Core project suddenly became "bad" when US president Barack Obama decided he liked it.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised -- they did the same thing with ObamaCare, the key feature of which (the "individual mandate" was proposed by Republican president Richard Nixon in 1973, proposed again by Republican congressman Newt Gingrich in 1993, and implemented in Massachusetts by Republican governor Mitt Romney in 2007, but then somehow magically became the worst thing evah when the Democrats actually got it done nationally.

Of course I oppose both Common Core and ObamaCare because I support separation of school and state and separation of health care and state, preferably via abolition of the state. But it would be nice if the Republicans could find bad ideas to oppose without having to invent those ideas in the first place.

In Which I Deprecate an Entire Application


Over the years I've installed, used and administered a number of commenting/discussion systems on the various web sites I run or help administer. Over time, my preferences have narrowed down to two systems. Recently they've narrowed to one: Disqus.

Disqus had been gaining on IntenseDebate in my affections anyway -- it seems to do a better job of automagically canning spam, it was ahead of IntenseDebate in terms of offering multiple login options, etc. But the last straw came a few months ago:

In Chrome (at least -- maybe in other browsers as well), I can no longer bulk delete comments by selecting a bunch of them, choosing "delete" from "bulk actions" and hitting the "apply" button. That function is still visible. But it doesn't work.

I've been unable to find anything about this problem in IntenseDebate's support area, and I've had no reply to my direct inquiries on the subject.

That's a deal breaker for me. At one web site where I do a bit of administration work, including comment moderation, it's not unusual for hundreds of spam comments to show up in moderation (as opposed to being automatically deleted) each day. Now I have to click on "delete" for each and every one of those comments, instead of being able to smoosh them 25 at a time. Or to put it a different way, what used to take 10 seconds now takes 60.

I've removed IntenseDebate and installed Disqus at every site I actually own or have full operational authority over. I'm encouraging sites I do comment moderation work on to do likewise.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Election 2016 Handicapping: File Under "Probably Not"


Is Chelsea Clinton's pregnancy a 2016 presidential "game changer" for Hillary Clinton?

"Morning Joe" talking head Andrew Ross Sorkin thinks so. I don't.

Will Hillary Clinton face "prop" charges a la Sarah Palin?

Legal Insurrection's William A. Jacobson wonders, but doubts it. I doubt it too, but for different reasons.

First of all, at this point I don't think Clinton needs a "game changer." She's the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nomination, and is probably in pretty good shape to win the general election (the Republican field just doesn't look that impressive ... yet).

Jacobson thinks that Clinton won't be criticized over "prop" stuff as Palin was because the Democrats are hypocritical.

I think that Clinton won't be criticized over prop stuff because she probably won't do much "prop" stuff, and because even if she does she won't elevate it to a circus freak show act like Palin did.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Election 2014 Handicapping: US Senate Outlook


Different people draw the "forever" line in politics at different points. Personally, I put it at three months. More than three months out, any predictions are mostly just speculation. Nonetheless, I'm posting my first US Senate handicapping outlook 7 1/2 months out. Why? Because I was messing around with the maps and felt like it.

33 Senate seats are up for regular election this year, and another two will be disposed of in special elections. Here's the current partisan disposition of those seats -- red means Republican, blue means Democrat:




The states with black lines across them -- Oklahoma and South Carolinia -- are the states with two Senate elections, one normal and one special to select a replacement for someone who's retiring mid-term.

Here's my first cut at predicting outcomes in November:



An "H" in the state means I'm predicting that the incumbent, or at least the current party, will hold the seat. For all those small blue states in the northeast, imagine a little "H" even though I didn't have room for one.

If I've put a red circle and the letters "RP" in an otherwise blue state, I'm predicting a Republican pickup there. If there were any red states with blue circles and "DP," those would be predicted Democrat pickups ... but at the moment, you won't see any of those.

A purple "T" in a state means "tossup."


Problem, What You Gonna Do?


Just to set the mood:

Problems by Sex Pistols on Grooveshark

Pinellas County, Florida Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, on the possibility of legal medical marijuana (hat tip -- #sayfie):

We're going to be right back to the problems we just dealt with, with pill mills .... We are going to see unscrupulous practitioners just trying to make a buck and see places pop up all over. Somebody can go in and say, 'Doc, I need a certification because my head hurts, or my neck hurts' and get an unlimited supply.

... and he says that like it's a bad thing.

The problem isn't marijuana.

The problem isn't pills or "pill mills."

The problem isn't "unscrupulous practitioners just trying to make a buck."

The problem is drug warriors like Bob Gualtieri.

People who want marijuana are going to get marijuana. People who want pills are going to get pills.

The only question is whether they'll do so by swiping a debit card, then go to work at their honest day jobs, or whether they'll mug you on the street or steal the stereo from your car to get the money because nobs like Gualtieri are jacking up the prices by running around waving guns in people's faces on the taxpayers' dime.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"The authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades ..."


is the US Census Bureau.

But it shouldn't be.

The purpose of the census bureau is to count noses so that seats in the US House of Representatives can be apportioned.

That's it.

That's all.

The Census Bureau should only be asking one question at each address: "How many people live here?"

Everything else is none of their business.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why I am Against Colbert as a Replacement for Letterman


Not for the reason you might think.

It's not that I don't think Colbert is as funny as Letterman. He's at least as funny as Letterman.

Nor do I think that it signals a dramatic and undesirable political shift on CBS late night TV. Colbert spends more time on politics than Letterman, but I bet if they were both congresscritters they'd vote the same way 90%+ of the time.

I just happen to like The Colbert Report, and to think that a more generalized, network-friendly late night show featuring Colbert will not be as good at the things he's good at.

One of my favorite Colbert segments:



I'm Shocked -- Shocked!


That the National Security Agency exploited the "Heartbleed" bug to conduct its illegal domestic espionage activities. And then lied about it.

A couple of observations about Heartbleed:


  • It was a bug in open source software that is widely used, released under a public microscope and carefully/constantly reviewed by dedicated experts. Yet the bug was around for two years before it was publicly exposed. No, I'm not putting down open source. I still think it's a great way to do things, especially from a security standpoint. Just pointing out that it's not magically perfect. Problems can still go unnoticed.
  • It went publicly unnoticed, but the NSA knew about it and exploited it for most or all of that two years. So you can bet that other governments' intelligence agencies did too. QED, when the US government huffs and puffs about its dedication to "cyber security," they're blowing smoke up your ass. If they identify a dangerous flaw in widely used Internet software, they don't broadband it so it can be fixed, they just exploit it, knowing that the Chinese, the Russians, et. al are exploiting it too.
The only really good thing to come out of this is that with the fix, NSA has had a spy door slammed shut in its face.


Well, That's Kind of Embarrassing


I've been a huge fan of Dropbox for a long time -- using the service, referring people to the service, evangelizing for the service (a Google search for "Dropbox" at KN@PPSTER returns nearly 200 results).

So yeah, I'm kind of surprised to find myself going through my Dropbox files this morning, copying the essentials to Google Drive and deleting the rest.

WTF, Dropbox?

My objection to the appointment of former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Dropbox's board isn't "privacy-based." She's not in government at the moment. The state surveillance machine rolls on with or without her, presumably without needing her on corporate boards to grease the rails. Either NSA can look at my data or it can't (it probably can).

My objections have to do with competence and integrity. Her performance as National Security Advisor and US Secretary of State demonstrates that she's about as competent as Kathleen Sebelius and about as honest as Bernie Madoff.

Yes, I know she's just one board member ... but her appointment calls the competence of the entire Dropbox operation into question.

Unlike some Dropbox users, I'm not "protesting" or "threatening" to drop Dropbox. I'm outta there. It's a done deal.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

There is no "The" ...


... before the words "libertarian philosophy."

While the words "libertarian" and "libertarianism" have a few centuries of history and meaning shifts, apparently beginning as a term to distinguish Christians who believed in free will rather than in predestination, for the last half century or so -- at least in the United States -- one particular meaning has gained overwhelming mindshare among those who use the word to describe themselves:

"Libertarianism" is the non-aggression principle, and "libertarians" are those who hold to that principle.

Of course, people get to the non-aggression principle via different (and possibly contradictory) routes, and proceed from the non-aggression principle to different (and possibly incompatible) elaborated sets of ideas. And of course any or all of those people may be in error at some point in that journey. "Libertarian" is not a synonym for "correct."

So when Sheldon Richman writes ...

I continue to have trouble believing that the libertarian philosophy is concerned only with the proper and improper uses of force. According to this view, the philosophy sets out a prohibition on the initiation of force and otherwise has nothing to say about anything else.

... my response is to notice the word "the" and say "well, there's your problem."

Every philosophy encompasses everything -- metaphysics, logic, epistemology, ethics and esthetics -- either explicitly or implicitly. The most fully elaborated, explored, formalized, systematic philosophies try to do so explicitly, but your personal philosophy addresses each of those elements, too, even if you've never consciously thought that personal philosophy through to figure out precisely how and why it does so.

Thing is, libertarianism is not a philosophy. It's a single constraint. "A" libertarian philosophy is a philosophy which incorporates that constraint. There is no "the" libertarian philosophy ... there are many libertarian philosophies, all of which presumably deal with matters other than proper and improper uses of force, using tools other than the libertarian constraint itself.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Election 2016 Handicapping: Key GOP Credibility Issue


The 2008 presidential election went to the Democrats in a walk. After seven years of losing ground wars in Asia, the Republicans just weren't in any position to compete, so they didn't. The Democrats didn't have to compete, so they didn't either. John McCain offered to serve George W. Bush's third term. So did Barack Obama. Obama won because McCain had an "R" next to his name.

The 2012 election cycle could have been competitive. In order to make the race competitive, Republicans had to present a contrast on ObamaCare, on foreign policy, or on both. Instead, they went with the Me Too Mannequin -- the father of ObamaCare, their most hapless and un-charismatic presidential nominee since Alf Landon, whose foreign policy positions alternated between deer in the headlights confusion and "just like the last two guys, I guess, but better because hey, it's ME" -- and lost again.

In 2016, it's the Democrats who will have to own the previous eight years of insane/idiotic foreign policy, with their most likely nominee having presided over a non-trivial portion of the insanity/idiocy as Secretary of State.

If the Republicans want to compete in 2016, or at least clear the board and set themselves up for victory in 2020, their best shot is to knock off the "yes, we too are mentally retarded and morally reprobate" crap and clear the board by acknowledging how abysmally stupid and corrupt the Bush/Cheney administration was on the foreign policy front.

Oddly enough, they're getting an assist in doing so from David Corn of Mother Jones. Here's the money quote from Rand Paul circa 2009:

There's a great YouTube of Dick Cheney in 1995 defending [President] Bush No. 1 [and the decision not to invade Baghdad in the first Gulf War], and he goes on for about five minutes. He's being interviewed, I think, by the American Enterprise Institute, and he says it would be a disaster, it would be vastly expensive, it'd be civil war, we would have no exit strategy. He goes on and on for five minutes. Dick Cheney saying it would be a bad idea. And that's why the first Bush didn't go into Baghdad. Dick Cheney then goes to work for Halliburton. Makes hundreds of millions of dollars, their CEO. Next thing you know, he's back in government and it's a good idea to go into Iraq.

Most of the potential Republican candidates still seem to think, the contrary evidence of 2012 notwithstanding, that the road to the White House runs through Sheldon Adelson's checkbook (and, therefore, through Dick Cheney's rich capacity for self-serving fantasy).

They were wrong about that last time around and they're wrong about it now. Nominating a candidate who's sane and sage on foreign policy may not be enough to generate a Republican win in 2016, but nominating another whackjob or greedhead is almost certainly a recipe for Republican failure in 2016. Just sayin' ...
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Monday, April 07, 2014

Election 2016 Handicapping: Not a Very Good Start


The Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Robert Costa analyze the early rounds in the GOP presidential primaries' "credentials caucus":

... to get schooled on foreign affairs, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has been consulting former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice ...

An anonymous source close to the emerging campaign organization tells me that Inspector Clouseau and Ted Bundy are counseling him on law enforcement. I doubt he has a drug policy adviser, though -- probably just keeps a DVD of Reefer Madness in heavy rotation.

Meanwhile, the article notes, Marco Rubio is studying economics and foreign policy under the tutelage of the Marxist entryists at the American Enterprise Institute.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Recommendation for Those Who Oppose Same-Sex Marriage


Don't marry someone of the same sex.

Problem solved.

There, that wasn't so difficult, now, was it?

Next!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Election 2016 Handicapping -- Early Miscellany Note #1


Since he's futzing around with his hat and giving every impression of throwing it into the ring, this is one that it's probably best to address as early as possible.

Q: Is Rand Paul a libertarian?

A: "They thought all along that they could call me a libertarian and hang that label around my neck like an albatross, but I'm not a libertarian." -- Rand Paul

Now, does that necessarily mean that Rand Paul isn't a libertarian?

No.

It just means either that


  1. He's not a libertarian; or
  2. Nobody should believe anything he says, because he's a brazen liar.
In future analyses of the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest, I will probably spill some (metaphorical) ink trying to help my readers figure out which of these is the case.

Jose Rodriguez, Then and Now


Now:

When we captured high-ranking al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida in 2002, we knew he could help us track down other terrorists and might provide information to allow us to stop another attack. Those who suggest we should have questioned him more gently have never felt the burden of protecting innocent lives.

Then:

"[Rodriguez] would always say, 'I'm not going to let my people get nailed for something they were ordered to do,'" -- Robert Richer, then associate deputy director, Central Intelligence Agency

"[Rodriguez thought] the heat from destroying is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into public domain -- he said that out of context they would make us look terrible; it would be 'devastating' to us." -- Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, then executive director, Central Intelligence Agency

In 2005, Rodriguez destroyed evidence. That doesn't prove that he possessed a moral compass of sufficient quality to leave him ashamed of what he'd done, but it's at least prima facie evidence that he knew damn well what he'd done was illegal.

As of 2014, he's comfortable engaging in Eichmannesque bluster about his crimes, although presumably that's because he's confident he'll never face justice for those crimes rather than, like Eichmann, just wanting to get it off his chest because he knows his goose is cooked.

If the US government had actually been based on "rule of law" back then, Rodriguez would never have been permitted to commit his crimes.

If the US government was based on "rule of law" now, Rodriguez would stand condemned by his own testimony and the only real question would be whether his actions merit execution (as was the case at the end of World War II, when US occupation authorities hanged a number of Japanese officers for doing it to Americans) or just a really, really long prison term.

There is no legitimate argument that waterboarding is anything but torture.

It is an irrefutable fact that waterboarding is illegal under both US law and the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which the US is signatory.

There is no doubt that Jose Rodriguez is a vicious, violent and unrepentant criminal.

While I don't blame the Post for publishing his self-congratulatory crap, I wish that the paper would have noted that last fact in its description of him. Not doing so is the equivalent of running a piece by Charles Manson with the bio line "Manson is a musician and motivational speaker from California."


I Continue to be Confused ...


... by "libertarian" support for the Keystone XL pipeline.

As I noted last month, my objection to Keystone is simple: It can't be built without having the government steal land to build it on, from people who don't care to sell.

For anyone operating under the label "libertarian," that should be the end of the matter.

But I keep seeing "libertarian" calls for Keystone to be built.

Two things strike me as odd about these "libertarian" calls for Keystone:

  1. They usually don't address the libertarian objection -- eminent domain -- at all; and
  2. The arguments they make are not only not libertarian arguments, but are in some cases just completely nonsensical.

The U. S. lacks pawns to be a leader in the foreign policy chess game -- insufficient oil and natural gas production. Years of neglect in pushing fossil fuel production left the country unable to assist allies in times of emergency.

Russia provides substantial natural gas, oil, and coal to Europe that gives it leverage in the Ukraine Crises due to Europe’s fear of energy supply cutoff. The European Union has assisted in its servitude by resisting natural gas production by fracking and shutting down and curtailing future use of nuclear power plants.

The Ukraine Crises is an example of future events until the United States develops fossil fuel energy production superiority.

So the argument for Keystone is that it's necessary to have it so the US government can dictate the affairs and relationships of other nations. That's not a "libertarian" argument -- libertarians are non-interventionists.

But even setting that aside, which we most manifestly should not, there are two major problems with the argument:

  1. The US already has "fossil fuel energy production superiority." In 2013, the US produced 12.5 million barrels of oil per day versus Russia's 10.5 million barrels per day. In fact, the US is now the world's leading energy producer and a net energy exporter (it achieved both those distinctions during the "anti-energy" Obama administration, by the way).
  2. Keystone has nothing whatsoever to do with US energy production. It is a pipeline to trans-ship CANADIAN oil across the US to Gulf Coast refineries for CANADIAN export. It will increase neither US oil production nor US energy export by so much as a single calorie.
Over the years, I've been skeptical of lefty claims that prominent "libertarian" think tanks just shill for whatever corporations are willing to write checks for favorable "analysis." But this kind of thing makes me wonder.

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Friday, April 04, 2014

Cue the World's Smallest Violin


Brendan Eich opposes marriages and families -- or at least some marriages and some families. So much so that Brendan Eich gave $1,000 to a political campaign to make it illegal to engage in a kind of marriage, or have a kind of family, that Brendan Eich doesn't like.

So when Brendan Eich became CEO of Mozilla, some people who support marriages and families of that sort made their dislike of Eich's actions known and encouraged those who agree to not use Mozilla's products (especially its flagship web browser, Firefox) so long as he remained CEO.

Eich remained CEO of Mozilla for nine days before leaving.

And now some of the same people who spent a good deal of time and ink wailing about how bakers, florists and photographers shouldn't be forced to bake cakes, arrange flowers or take photographs for people having the type of wedding we're talking about because of "religious beliefs" are wailing about Eich's "freedom of speech."

I say some, because I was quite clear in my support of non-enslavement of bakers, florists and photographers. They shouldn't have to do business with people whose activities they don't approve of -- for "religious" reasons or any other reasons -- and they should be completely free to make it clear why they won't do business with those people.

Just like those people shouldn't have to do business with those bakers, florists and photographers -- or with Brendan Eich -- and should be completely free to make it clear why they won't.

Which is exactly what happened.

Double standard much?

Thursday, April 03, 2014

I Agree with Sarah Palin


Betcha didn't see that one coming. She may not be right twice a day like a stopped clock, but she's right every once in awhile, so credit where credit is due:

Sarah Palin: Paul Ryan's budget is 'definition of insanity'

Palin:

Do we still not understand how dangerous it is to allow government to grow unchecked as we shackle ourselves with massive debt -- a good portion of which is held by foreign nations who don't necessarily like us? If we can't balance the budget today, what on earth makes us think it will happen at some future date? The solution is staring us in the face. We need to rein in spending today, and don't tell me there is nothing to cut when we know every omnibus bill is loaded with pork and kickbacks.

The usual disclaimers -- I don't accept the "we," "ourselves" and "us" parts, since I have neither authorized any politician to rack up debt in my name nor have any intention of accepting an obligation to pay off said debt, etc.

But as far as it goes, she's right.

Ryan's budget proposal, which the usual Democratic suspects are already busy labeling "draconian" and so forth, is the usual, completely non-serious, crap.

If the politicians want to balance the budget, here's how to do it:

  1. Make a sober estimate of next year's revenues (perhaps based on last year's revenues);
  2. Draw up a budget which spends less than that amount;
  3. Stick to that budget unless -- and only unless -- revenue shortfalls force you to revise it downward (any unexpected revenue windfalls can go to paying down debt principal).
Yeah, it's really that simple.

Ryan's budget proposal increases spending for the next two years. Then, based on rosy revenue projections and the silly notion that subsequent congresses will consider themselves bound by Paul Ryan's plan (when in fact he won't even consider himself bound by it if he's still in Congress three years from now), it supposedly takes eight more years to hit point (2) above.

Sound familiar? It's the thing the Republicans offer up every year.

Every year, Republicans think that if they offer a budget that doesn't decrease spending for two years, the Democrats will quit whining about "draconian cuts." They should know better. To all Democrats (and most Republicans, especially if the word "defense" is mentioned anywhere in the area under consideration) any cut is "draconian." Heck, it doesn't even have to be a cut at all to be a "draconian cut" --  any proposed reduction in future spending increases is a "draconian cut" too.

Every year, Republicans promise that their proposal will balance the budget ... some day, a long time from now ... with no pain involved for anyone. Not only should they know better, they do know better. But they think you're stupid enough not to know better.

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